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Shi Nai'an And Outlaws 0f The Marsh

Outlaws of the Marsh was written in the early Ming Dynasty. LikeThe Romance of the Three Kingdoms' it was also based on folk legends,storytelling scripts and dramas. Shi Nai'an lived in the time just before Luo Guanzhong. Outlaws of the Marsh is the first novel dealing with the subject matterof peasant revolt in China. It describes the full development of a peasantrevolt from its inception, with the rise of a rebel group at Liangshan,down to its defeat, with all the rebels accepting amnesty and surrenderingto the government. The novel is regarded as progressive because it isfully supportive of the rebel peasants, who used to be despised as"thieves and bandits" by the feudal rulers. As well, it also analyzes andexposes the deep social roots of the peasant revolt: the decadent rulingclass, the corrupt government and the deepening class contradictions.

Its successful portrait of more than 2O distinctive characters greatlycontributes to the novel's enduring popularity. Shi Nai-an is skilled at revealing the inner world of characters throughtheir behavior and language. This expressive technique originated fromthe "storytelling scripts," which due to its special form, does not allowmuch explanation about characters' appearances and psychologicalactivities, therefore, it displays the figures' character mainly through theirlanguage and behavior, as well as conflicts and intrigues in which theyare involved. The Outlaws of the Marsh further developed this expressivetechnique. For example, Lin Chong seizes Young Master Gao in fury butdare not to hit him, with the momentary hesitation in his behaviorbespeaking the hidden psychological struggle in his mind. Some characters in the novel have very similar personalities, yetthey can be distinguished from each other in subtle ways. The authorshows great skill in treating these subtleties. For example, Lu Da and LiKui are both straightforward and unsophisticated men. They seemcareless but are quite sharp at times, only in very different ways. Li Kui'sprudence has a naive and ingenuous nature while Lu Da's astutenessreflects his rich life experiences.

Another distinctive feature of Outlaws of the Marsh incharacterization is to reveal the characters' different dispositions and their different forms of resistance to oppression through describing theirdifferent life experiences. For example, Lin Chong, Yang Zhi and Lu Da are all army officers. Lin Chong lives an easy life and has originally no intention torevolt. But he is, at the same time, a straightforward manwith a strong sense of justice. When he is framed again andagain and is goaded into fury, he kills the villains sent tomurder him and goes to Liangshan at last. Yang Zhi comes from a line of generals and has a strong desire for high social position and riches. To achieve his goal, hemakes every possible concession but is still finally forced to join therebels in Liangshan. Compared with Lin Chong and Yang Zhi, Lu Da hasmore initiative in rebelling against oppression. He loves freedom andnever hesitates in defending others against an injustice. His personalitystands out sharply against the seamy social reality, therefore, his goingto Liangshan is inevitable.

Outlaws of the Marsh is based on storytelling scripts, therefore itslanguage has a strong colloquial style: succinct, lively, accurate and veryexpressive.

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